This year marks 500 years since the postal service was formalised.
Those 500 years have witnessed enormous social and cultural change, and two World Wars.
Throughout all of that, letters flew across the country, as the post was the way for people to exchange news of great, overwhelming political events, or of tiny, intimate, but life-changing family events.
The postal service gave ordinary and extraordinary people the chance to share their thoughts, and discovering what they were is what gives me the greatest pleasure as a historian.
The best words you can ever read in a letter are “Burn This”, which prove the writer didn’t want you to read it.
Personal letters can open a little paper window into the great events of the past.
That’s why I’m working with Royal Mail to ask people to hunt out long-forgotten letters that might help to re-tell the social and cultural history of the United Kingdom through the words of the people who lived it.
We’d like the people of the UK to look in their attics, rummage around in their garages, and search their sheds for old letters and postcards. Some might be from centuries ago, others might have just been delivered last week.
We’d like to know what these letters have to say – from the first time someone travelled abroad, to the impact of conflict.
If you find something brilliant in your own family letters, you can upload it either through www.royalmailgroup.com/lettersofourlives or by sending a photocopy to Freepost RTSA-BEGA-AAZB, Letters of our lives, Riverside House - Riverside Estate, Sir Thomas Longley Road, Medway City Estate, Rochester ME2 4FN to be documented as part of this fascinating project.
I can’t wait to read all the letters and postcards, and to share in the pride of the families who’ve found a story to tell us. I’m champing at the bit to start piecing together a hidden social history of our country.
TV historian and chief curator, Historic Royal Palaces